Finance Department

Travel Expense Policy

Policy Statement

This is the official college travel policy that applies to all Union College faculty, administrators, staff and students for both domestic and international travel.

This policy provides guidance for the traveler and those who approve the expenses. Travel represents a significant controllable expense in Union College operations. The purpose of the Travel Policy is to provide the College community with broad guidelines to ensure reasonable and necessary expenditures for authorized business travel are incurred, documented, and paid for by the College in conformity with applicable laws and acceptable practices.

It is policy to pay all reasonable expenses incurred in pursuance of college business, provided they are authorized and appropriately documented. In some cases, individual departments may impose more restrictive guidelines than those set forth in this policy. Employees should be neither financially advantaged nor disadvantaged as a result of incurring genuine business expenses.

These policies have been developed to meet IRS requirements for a fully accountable expense plan. Expenses and reimbursements that conform to this policy are not reported as taxable income to the employee.

This policy is not intended to cover every situation. Exceptions to this policy (not otherwise covered by laws, grants, or contractual commitments) may be made on an individual basis, but require the travelers to obtain written pre-approval from their Responsibility Center Head. A copy of the pre-approval must be attached to the pertinent expense.

Policy Guidelines

General Considerations: Travelers may refer to the appropriate section for more information.

  • Obtain appropriate approval prior to making any commitments.
  • Travelers may not approve their own expenses.
  • All documentation (receipts) must be in detail and list individual items purchased.
  • Union College is exempt from sales tax in several states. Travelers should refer to the website for more information and to obtain the appropriate form for the state(s) in which you are traveling. This does not apply to all states. Travelers are reminded that the New York State Sales Tax Exempt number is printed on your college credit card however; please always travel with a form in the event you are required to present an actual form. Exemption does not apply to hotel guest or occupancy taxes.
  • College policy prohibits the purchase of any individual trip or travel insurance, advance boarding or seating upgrades, using College funds. The College does purchases a Business Travel and Accident Insurance Policy annually. Refer to the Human Resources Other Benefits website for additional information.
  • Unless due to an emergency, the traveler is responsible for any charges where a direct business purpose is not clearly evident. This includes additional costs related to changes in travel arrangements made for personal reasons.
  • In the event that a traveler is unable to successfully complete previously arranged travel, it is the traveler’s obligation to cancel or modify the travel arrangements. Costs incurred due to the failure to cancel may be considered to be the personal responsibility of the traveler.
  • When planning, consider cost effective alternatives such as video conferencing. Webinars allow for participation of multiple individuals and are significantly less expensive and have lower carbon impact than travel.
  • To maximize the budget funds available, travelers are encouraged to be selective when determining the most appropriate professional development opportunities.
  • Responsibilities of Travelers

    College funds must be spent prudently. Moreover, the College is subject to the scrutiny of outside agencies and organizations such as auditors, the IRS, federal and state governments, granting agencies and private foundations from which funds are received. Travel expenses will be paid by the College if they are reasonable, appropriately documented, properly authorized, and within the standards of this policy. Individuals who incur authorized expenses should neither gain nor lose personal funds as a result.

    Individuals are responsible to follow College policies with respect to reporting of any accidents or other incidents that may result in a claim to the College. Failure to promptly report all accidents or incidents may result in disciplinary action.

  • Responsibilities of Supervisors

    The responsibility for review and approval of all College business, travel expenses generally rests with the supervisor who is fiscally responsible for the account to which the expenditures will be charged. When approving the expense, the supervisor is certifying that the expenses are valid and directly related to College business.

    It is the responsibility of the approving party to be familiar with the need for the business travel expenses and to be satisfied that they have been reported in a manner consistent with this policy. Such matters as charges for airline upgrades, hotel room service & mini bar charges, wifi, alcohol purchases, etc. must be carefully evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the person approving or rejecting the expense.

  • Responsibilities of Financial Services

    The Financial Services Office is responsible for reviewing all credit card transactions and receipts for completeness, accuracy, reasonableness, and compliance with government regulations and College policies. They verify that funds and accounts are correct and ensure the appropriate recording of costs incurred. They maintain auditable records of travel expenses, ensuring proper tax treatment of taxable income items and compliance with IRS regulations.

    They notify travelers and supervisors when items appear unreasonable, incomplete, personal in nature, or violate government regulations or College policies. They review balances due to/from travelers and monitor to ensure that advances are cleared in a timely manner.

Methods of Payment and Documentation

  • Credit Cards

    The preferred method of payment for all expenses will be the Union College Credit Card.

    • Approvals and allocation to the proper account(s) are electronic using WORKS (the on-line software.)
    • Travelers are encouraged to create an expense folder in Works for each trip or event. The folder can be created with advance expenses such as airfare or registration.
    • Travel outside your normal territory may result in a credit card fraud alert. Notify Bank of America (888) 449-2273 of travel dates and location prior to the trip.
    • If you do not have a College credit card, a temporary credit card can be obtained from the Card Program office. Please email to request a temporary card. Use of personal credit cards for College business is not reimbursable.

    For more information on the Card Program, please visit our website

  • Cash

    Union College discourages the use of cash due to the risk of loss. Cash can be used for minor expenses such as hotel tips and where credit cards are not accepted. Cash expenses are accounted for and reimbursed through the WORKS software and are added as a non-taxable item to the traveler paycheck. Documentation of each cash expense is required for reimbursement. Original receipts or scanned copies are acceptable. The reimbursement request must be submitted within 30 days of the travel event to be eligible for reimbursement.

  • Advances

    Based on the assumption that the traveler will incur minimal out of pocket expenses for tips, etc.; advances are not available for individual travel when the trip is less than five business days in duration. Advances are available for group and team travel, international travel, trips involving 5 days or more, and travel to remote locations.

    To request an advance, submit a Payment Request Form to Financial Services at least two weeks prior to your departure. The form should include the number of participants, dates of travel and explain the need for the advance. In lieu of a separate check, advances can be added as a non-taxable item to the traveler paycheck.

    Advances must be documented and settled within 14 business days following the conclusion of the travel. Travelers are not allowed to have more than one advance outstanding at any time.

  • Documentation

    All methods of payment require that a written substantiation of the expense be submitted to Finance. Original detailed receipts should be scanned and uploaded into WORKS for each transaction. Paper submission is allowable, but must include a signed cover page with original detailed receipts.

    Expense Item

    Examples of Required Documentation (with adequate details)

    Air or Rail

    Original passenger coupon, E-ticket receipt, plus itinerary w/amount listed


    Original itemized bill including final settlement

    Car Rental

    Original agreement including final settlement

    Meals equaling or exceeding $25.00 with tip

    Original credit card or cash register receipt w/amount listed, listing items purchased, plus business purpose, discussion topic, and persons in attendance

    All Other

    Original detailed credit card or cash register receipt, listing amount and items purchased

    An individual incurring expenses, who loses a required receipt should seek a duplicate or faxed copy from the originator.

  • Unacceptable Forms of Documentation
    • Credit Card Statements
    • Non-itemized hotel statements
    • Non-itemized restaurant receipts
    • Receipts without form of payment indicated
  • Travel Agencies / Conference Rates

    The College does not have an "official" travel agent. If a traveler works with a travel agency or online booking website, they simply need to be sure they are getting the best price. Double check prior to purchasing that upgrade fees or travel insurance are not automatically included.

    When attending a conference or meeting, travelers should check the group airfare/hotel rate negotiated by the sponsor before booking through a travel agent. Often, these group rates are quite a bit lower than fares that can be obtained directly from the airlines or through a local agent.


  • Air Travel
    • Purchase the lowest possible Basic Economy fare that meets your business needs. Requests to fly other than coach class may be considered for medical necessity. The Responsibility Center Head must give prior approval for any upgrade from coach class. (attach approval to expense documentation). The purchase of refundable tickets is currently not allowed.
    • Travelers are urged to book their reservations as far in advance as possible to maximize savings.
    • The traveler will be responsible for any additional costs associated with a fare upgrade, early check-in, preferred boarding, seat selection charge or flight insurance.
    • The College is not responsible for additional baggage fees. This applies to domestic travel for an individual traveler.
    • The College is not responsible for costs associated with lost luggage.
    • The College is not responsible for the cost of in-flight entertainment or alcoholic beverages.
    • The cost of any deviation from the original itinerary, for personal reasons, is the traveler’s responsibility.
    • Documentation/Receipts should include dates of travel, name of traveler, destination, amount, and business purpose.
    • The traveler may retain frequent flier miles; however, an traveler should always travel on the least expensive airline, not the airline with which they have a frequent flier account. If a traveler uses frequent flier miles, personal credit vouchers, etc. to pay for business travel they cannot be reimbursed for it.
    • Travelers should consider a Saturday night stay when the transportation savings exceed the cost of lodging and meals for the additional stay. Travel documentation should include an explanation of expenses related to the extended stay
  • Car Rental
    • Travelers should consider renting a compact or standard size automobile when the round-trip travel exceeds 200 miles.

      The College has discounted contract rates with Enterprise and National car rentals Through our E&I Cooperative agreement. The Union College account code XZ24B51 must be used with either agency to obtain the discounted rate.
    • Allowable costs include the daily rental fee, mileage fee, gasoline and tolls.
    • The additional cost of a navigation tool is reasonable. The additional cost of “extras”, such as satellite radio, are not allowable College expenses.
    • Travelers are encouraged to refuel the vehicle before returning it to avoid exorbitant refueling charges.
    • Travelers are encouraged to use the off-site pick up and drop off rental facilities to reduce costs.
    • Additional insurance is unnecessary and therefore an unallowable expense.
    • Documentation/Receipts should include dates of rental, name of traveler, destination, amount, and business purpose.
    • Insurance requirements are different for vans and trucks. 15 passenger vans are prohibited unless prior approval is received from the Director of Risk Management.
    • The College is not responsible for traffic or parking violations incurred with the rental car.
    • In the event of an accident, notify the following:
    1. Rental agency
    2. Local authorities
    3. Finance Office (518) 388-6104
  • Rail Travel
    • Purchase the lowest possible coach fare that meets your business needs.
    • The traveler will be responsible for any additional cost associated with a fare upgrade.
    • Travelers are urged to book their reservations as far in advance as possible to maximize savings.
    • Documentation/Receipts should include dates of travel, name of traveler, destination, amount, and business purpose.

    Travelers may choose to make their own arrangements online at

  • College Vehicles
    • Campus Safety has a limited number of vehicles available for college business travel for qualified drivers. Requests for rentals should be made as far in advance as possible utilizing the attached Transportation Vehicle Reservation Form.
    • The usage charge is directly billed to the college account provided by the traveler.

    Contact the Transportation/Traffic Manager for availability. (518) 388-6911 or

  • Personal Vehicle
    • When travelers use their own vehicle on authorized College business, it is their personal insurance policy that is primary coverage for liability and physical damage coverage. The College's insurance provides secondary coverage when and if the judgment exceeds the limits of primary coverage.
    • Mileage reimbursement should not exceed the cost of available alternate transportation unless the traveler can substantiate a business reason for traveling by car. In cases where the traveler elects to drive rather than travel by plane or rail, the lower of the available alternatives will be reimbursed to the traveler.
    • Travelers will be reimbursed for use of their personal vehicle for business travel at the prevailing IRS mileage reimbursement rate, located on this link:, plus any tolls or parking fees incurred. The mileage reimbursement rate compensates for gas, EV charging, oil, insurance, repairs, maintenance and depreciation on the vehicle.
    • Travelers may only charge gas, or EV charges for College owned vehicles on their College credit card.
    • The College is not responsible for traffic or parking violations, towing, insurance or damage to their personal vehicle.
    • Travelers may be reimbursed for mileage incurred while driving to and from the airport if greater than their normal commute, as well as lot parking. The mileage calculation shall equal the round-trip distance between the traveler’s office and the airport.
    • Reimbursement requests are submitted through the WORKS system, attaching any receipts for tolls and parking. Also attach a “MapQuest” map or similar document that provides the number of miles driven. Expense report should also include dates of travel, destination and business purpose for travel.
  • Miscellaneous Transportation
    • Reasonable expenses for taxi, Uber, Lyft, public transportation and airport shuttle service, including a modest tip if appropriate, are reimbursable. Whenever possible, travelers are encouraged to use their college credit card.
    • For transportation between Albany and New York City, a discount bus service is available through For transportation between Schenectady and New York City, a discount bus service is available through Fees are very low but vary.
    • Travelers may enroll in travel reward programs and/or airline clubs at their own expense.
    • In addition, any necessary Parking fees/Tolls associated with the business trip are allowable.


  • General Considerations

    General Considerations

    • The college will cover the cost of moderately priced accommodations (Hotel, Motel, AirBnB, etc) up to the single room rate including “guest and occupancy taxes”; but excluding sales tax in most states. Refer to the website for more information and to obtain the appropriate form if available.
    • The college is not responsible for the cost of entertainment, mini-bar, personal items or services.
    • It is the responsibility of the traveler to cancel any room reservation that will not be used. If the traveler fails to cancel a reservation in a timely manner, they will be held responsible for any cancellation fees.
    • In an effort to promote a healthy lifestyle, the college will cover reasonable hotel fitness room charges for trips exceeding 2 days duration, up to 5 days.
    • Valet/laundry services are allowed for trips exceeding 5 business days in duration.
    • The College expects travelers to use the most economical or efficient means of accessing the internet if required.
    • Documentation/Receipts should include the entire hotel folio or Airbnb reservation & receipt. If the folio includes restaurant or room service charges also include the itemized receipt listing what was purchased and charged to the room.
  • Conference

    Conference attendees are generally offered a discounted hotel rate for the conference hotel. If a traveler elects to stay at a hotel other than the specific conference or event location, the traveler will be responsible for any excess hotel and transportation costs.

  • Gifts in Lieu of Lodging

    Travelers may choose to stay with family or friends, which can save the college money. When approved by the department head prior to the trip, the reasonable cost of a non-cash gift or one meal is appropriate as a modest gesture of appreciation. The value of the gift or meal should not exceed the cost of one-night stay in a local hotel.


  • General Considerations
    • The College will pay for the reasonable cost of traveler meals incurred while travelling on College business. Fiscal prudence and reasonableness should be used.
    • If attending a conference that includes meals, the college is not responsible for additional meals.
    • Travelers are expected to act responsibly in relation to alcohol consumption while on a business trip. The cost of an (1) alcoholic beverage with dinner will be allowable as part of the meal expense. If incurred at a greater amount, payments for alcoholic beverages should be billed separately and paid for by the traveler directly. Alcohol may never be purchased on a Federal Grant.
    • Documentation/Receipts should be original and itemized and include date and business purpose. If the travel is conference related, also include a copy of the conference agenda or schedule. Hotel folios do not provide adequate documentation for meals in the hotel restaurant or room service.
    • When dining with a group, the traveler should obtain an individual receipt for their portion of the meal.
    • If traveling internationally to a location where it may be difficult to use a credit card or obtain appropriate documentation, a per diem rate of $45 per day is allowable for meals. Per diem must be used for the entire trip if chosen. This request should be processed through the WORKS reimbursement system.

    NOTE: Meals are not allowable expenses of sponsored programs unless they have been specifically approved by the funding agency.

  • Business Meal Policy
    • For a meal to be considered "business related,” it must meet the definition of a meeting which should be planned with a defined, strategic business objective. A pre-meeting agenda is encouraged to establish expectations of the meeting.
    • Business meals are expected to include at least one non-College traveler. Prior approval of the appropriate Responsibility Center Head is required for a traveler only meal to be an allowable expense. (attach prior approval to expense transaction in WORKS)
    • IRS Regulations require that business meal expense reporting must include the business purpose, as well as the list of attendees and their relationship to the College.
    • Non-allowable expenses include parties or meals for social functions such as a traveler birthdays, weddings, births, and other personal events.
  • Tipping

    Gratuities for group functions and catered events are allowable; however, they must be reasonable and not exceed a threshold of 20%. Please be mindful of situations where gratuity is automatically included.

Conference Fees

Many conferences and professional development meetings include networking opportunities and meals. A registration confirmation or conference itinerary (brochure) detailing the fee(s) is required to substantiate the business purpose, dates of travel and amenities provided.

Shared Travel Expenses

It is understood that when traveling with another college traveler, it is common to share expenses such as meals and ground transportation. The expense report should include the name(s) of other travelers and the amount paid on behalf of the other traveler(s).

If your expenses are partially covered by another organization, Union will accept copies of receipts if submitted with a statement including the name of the organization, a description of the expenses being reimbursed or paid and the amount that is being reimbursed or paid.

International Travel

Any traveler planning travel to a foreign country for which the U.S. State Department has issued a travel advisory, must obtain prior approval from their Responsibility Center Head, or their respective Vice President. Additional medical insurance for coverage designed for use outside of the U.S. may also be required. Please see Meals for allowable per diem situations.

The traveler is responsible for any passport costs.

Combining Business with Personal Travel

When traveling for the College, it is allowable to combine your business trip with personal travel. The College will only pay for the business portion of your trip, and expenses for the personal portion must be excluded on your expense report. You must first obtain approval from your department and then follow the appropriate guidelines.

Companion Travel

  • When traveling with a personal companion, the traveler is responsible for any additional charges above the single occupancy rate for lodging, transportation and meals.
  • When traveling with another traveler, the travelers should consider, if agreeable to both parties, double occupancy lodging and shared services such as ground transportation to reduce expenses.

Sponsored Program Travel

Sponsored funds are those funds received by the college to finance a specific project or grant and the sponsoring agency is frequently a governmental entity. In some cases, the sponsoring agency has specific requirements in regards to travel expenses. In order to ensure the college meets all such requirements, travel supported by sponsored funds must comply with the College’s Travel Policy, the terms of the award, and all applicable regulations.


  • Allowable Expenses
    • Transportation, lodging and meal expenses, including tips, parking and tolls
    • One standard airline baggage charge per flight, for the traveler’s luggage only
    • Expenses associated with baggage handling, storage, and tips
    • Internet and fax charges
    • Hospitality directly related to the educational or research purpose of the trip
    • Gifts for hosts, in lieu of meals/lodging may be provided with a non-cash gift
    • Laundry expenses when away for five or more consecutive days
    • Fitness facility when away for two days or more (travelers are encouraged to book lodging with free facilities when possible)
    • Necessary cellular plans, telephone calls, including those calls necessary to obtain transportation and hotel reservations, communication with the office.
  • Non-Allowable Expenses
    • Upgrades – air, hotel or car rental
    • Unused transportation or hotel reservations not properly cancelled
    • Portion of air travel, train travel, auto rental, mileage, hotel costs or meals for personal use
    • Additional insurance such as travel, travel accidental death/dismemberment, trip cancellation, general liability, auto and collision damage waiver
    • Personal travel rewards, frequent flier, and security privileges (Global Entry, TSA pre, etc.)
    • Personal expenses such as movies, haircuts, reading material, toiletries, medicine, sauna or spa/massage treatments
    • Personal telephone calls in excess of one per day
    • Childcare fees, kennel costs, pet or house-sitting fees
    • Mileage to and from traveler’s home and primary office
    • Gift cards of any kind for any purpose
    • Gasoline expenses when the personal automobile mileage reimbursement rate is claimed
    • Laundry expenses for trips less than five days
    • Traffic fines, court costs, parking violations and auto repairs
    • NYS Sales Tax and sales tax paid in states that recognize Union College's tax-exempt status
    • Other expenses not directly related to the business purpose of the trip